During a routine Congressional oversight meeting today, Federal Trade Commission chairman Joseph Simons agreed to begin an investigation into "loot box" monetization schemes in video games and whether they take advantage of young players.
While it's yet unclear how this investigation will play out, the fact that the FTC plans to scrutinize loot boxes is something you should be aware of if you're working on (or planning) a game that uses them.
"Given the seriousness of this issue, I think it is time for the FTC to investigate these mechanisms to ensure children are being adequately protected, and to educate parents about potential addiction or other negative impacts of these games," New Hampshire Democratic senator Maggie Hassan told FTC leaders, referencing recent reports that exposing young people to loot boxes in games may be linked to gambling problems later in life.
Hassan foreshadowed this request months ago, and it now comes in the wake of multiple countries cracking down on loot box monetization systems, including Belgium, the Netherlands, and South Korea.
While game industry stakeholders like the ESRB and the ESA have so far defended loot boxes on the basis that they're not gambling, per se, critics of the practice (including lawmakers in states like Hawaii and Washington) have tended to focus on how predatory they can be, especially when it comes to young players.